Saturday, November 13, 2010

Poetry Prompt #31 - No Place Like Home

In “The Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy only had to click her ruby heels three times while repeating, “There’s no place like home,” and there she was, back in Kansas. Going home may not be quite that easy for the rest of us, but poetry can be the way we click our heels to get there. Quite often, the journey is healing.

In poetry, home has been written as the “brick and mortar” of actual places, as memories, and as  imagined places. Home has also represented relationships: failed relationships, for example, as in  C. P. Cavafy's "The Afternoon Sun."

Home is also an effective backdrop for the pain of loss, as in 

A “home poem” may be about a place once shared with people who are no longer living, as in W. S. Merwin's "A Single Autumn."

Poems about home may recall the furnishings and people of a particular place and remember how a certain home felt, as in Gerald Stern's "The Dancing."

Houses may figure in the imagery for poems about people as in Mark Strand's

Home poems may also be about giving up or selling a home or about moving from one home to another, as in Ruth Stone's "The Cabbage."

For this prompt, let's write a poem about home. Here are some things to think about:

1. What memories do you have of a childhood home? 

2. Is there a place you’ve lived that was special to you? 

3. What happiness have you found in a particular home? What sadness? 

4. Is there anyone with whom you once shared a home and now miss? 

5. Can you think of something in your life for which “home” may be a metaphor? 

6. Is there a particular object (piece of furniture, painting, lamp, etc.) that evokes the feeling of a former home for you? 

7. How has a place you’ve lived been a “castle” for you? 

8. Is there a “haunted House” in your history (a home that haunts you in some way)? 


  1. Thanks for those incredible example poems; each one is superb!

  2. Thanks, Bob! Your support of the blog is much appreciated, and I'm glad you like the poems. Some of them are among my all-time favorites.

  3. Hi Adele,

    I'm working on a poem and thought I'd share its beginnings with you and your readers. This is by no means finished, but I've got a busy week ahead and may not come back to this one for a while. The first line contains a deliberate cliche ...

    All the best,

    I have no doubt that home is where the heart is,
    where memory begins, where the light falls fast
    in shuttered rooms. I go back always when stars
    appear among the pines, when the willow bends
    in the March or winter wind. That old house will
    be home, always, what I miss and remember most,
    the dreams that didn't come true, and what I left.

  4. Jamie, thanks so much for sharing! You're off to a great start. I hope you'll let us see the poem when you're finished working on it.

  5. Here's a old "standard."


    Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
    Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home;
    A charm from the sky seems to hallow us there,
    Which, seek through the world, is ne'er met with elsewhere.
    Home, home, sweet, sweet home!
    There's no place like home, oh, there's no place like home!

    An exile from home, splendor dazzles in vain;
    Oh, give me my lowly thatched cottage again!
    The birds singing gayly, that come at my call --
    Give me them -- and the peace of mind, dearer than all!
    Home, home, sweet, sweet home!
    There's no place like home, oh, there's no place like home!

    I gaze on the moon as I tread the drear wild,
    And feel that my mother now thinks of her child,
    As she looks on that moon from our own cottage door
    Thro' the woodbine, whose fragrance shall cheer me no more.
    Home, home, sweet, sweet home!
    There's no place like home, oh, there's no place like home!

    How sweet 'tis to sit 'neath a fond father's smile,
    And the caress of a mother to soothe and beguile!
    Let others delight mid new pleasures to roam,
    But give me, oh, give me, the pleasures of home.
    Home, home, sweet, sweet home!
    There's no place like home, oh, there's no place like home!

    To thee I'll return, overburdened with care;
    The heart's dearest solace will smile on me there;
    No more from that cottage again will I roam;
    Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.
    Home, home, sweet, sweet, home!
    There's no place like home, oh, there's no place like home!

  6. I feel more like a property manager in my house than as someone who has the power to enrich, as well as detract from, the lives of our daughter and son. If our kids write-I'm sure they talk- they are 26 and 24, I wonder what they'll find enriching, ennobling, farcical, helpful, a mistake, curious, spiritual, unnecessarily harsh or mean-spirited, etc. What grades do they give my wife and I? Home and parents blend together, it seems, and show up as a very hefty and influential package.


    I am forever grateful to my mother
    for prayers she uttered alongside
    our breakfront, for the yearly
    metamorphosis of this

    bulky red-brown furniture
    into ark and tabernacle.
    I am grateful for how she
    helped blessings rain down

    on its contents, a hardcover
    War and Peace no one read,
    a chrome serving tray
    meant for show,

    a miniature torah scroll from
    one of the bar-mitzvah cakes,
    all visible behind the glass,
    baseball card sets, a shoebox

    full of family photos stored below,
    behind one of its doors,
    linen tablecloths and expensive
    silverware kept in the drawers.

    I am thankful for how she dovined*
    before this tall, unsecured
    ceilingscraper on the High Holy Days,
    how it shook when she rocked

    back and forth in awe, how
    in a housedress, she turned
    a circle of spotless living room
    carpet into sacred ground.

    *Rocking back and forth in prayer

    This poem has appeared in the Paterson Literary Review

  7. Thanks for sharing this poem, Bob! It's always been one of my favorite Rosenbloom poems. I especially like the way you give the past an immediacy that speaks to your readers in the ever-present voice of memory. Your last two stanzas recall so many of our mothers who, in their simple faith and love, made our memories holy.

  8. The poems you post as examples every week are always great. And you provide so much info in the sidebars. Even if one isn't a poet, it's wonderful to visit this site and read! Thank you!

  9. To Bloom306,

    Great poem. It reminds me of Gerald Stern's "The Dancing," but I like yours better - the details are more personal (for lack of a better word) and the image of your mom in her housedress is breathtaking. Thanks for posting.


  10. Ditto, Kara. It's a great poem, Bloom306!

  11. Nightmares in the Forest
    By Basil Rouskas

    Friday night and we write from
    the distant place in the woods
    that is our home. No motor sounds.

    The river rolls – closed-mouthed,
    a finger on its locked lips –
    “silence please.” It follows

    century-old paths on its predictable
    journey to the sea. But the rest is random –
    the rustling of the wind through

    loaded branches, the drops of rain
    on the roof, and night insects doing
    their after-dark work. There are

    no more birds in the trees. The bats
    are not out yet. No neighbors.
    Cicadas, humming in huge numbers,

    have claimed the vocal space, now
    that the frogs have disappeared
    from the pond. And on our skin,

    hot water from the shower builds
    us a refuge from the forest wilderness
    and the night’s black shawl. In short,

    we’re still afraid of the night. Our
    eyelids get heavy and the bed calls us,
    but our work is unfinished. Report card

    for the day, before we sleep. Then
    we dream – of the island, where
    we used to go for our summer swims,

    We eat fresh tomatoes and the hot
    bread that mother wrapped in a red
    and white checked napkin, the

    feta cheese always separate in wax paper.
    And the drinking water – always expensive –
    fifty cents per glass from the kiosk.

    In the meantime, we are aware that father
    is still in the city. No vacation for him yet. He will join us later

    for the hot sulfur baths that heal his skin. But father never arrives.
    Did the ship sink? He always called that

    ship a “dog-drowner.” What do mountain
    people know about the sea? The press is
    clear. The ship is lost. And now, what?

    We are in a large hall, a theater, maybe a
    church. The last rite before his journey to
    the other side? Yet, no one cries, no one

    consoles mother. No clergy chants. And
    then, a journalist speaks from the pulpit –
    an apology – the ship was not lost. We

    were given incorrect information. Fifty
    years later, everything is clear. Both
    parents are gone, but the island still

    claims us. Salty Aegean breezes still
    filter through beach pine needles. We
    still taste tomatoes and salt.

    Copyright © 2010 By Basil Rouskas. All rights reserved. From REDRAWING BORDERS (Finishing Line Press, 2010)

  12. Thanks so much, Basil, for posting your poem! It's one of my favorites from your forthcoming collection. The last stanza is striking, especially the "taste image" of tomatoes and salt.

    Readers: Basil's book REDRAWING BORDERS is due from the publisher any day now. You may order directly from Finishing Line Press at the website Basil notes. You won't be disappointed!